What We Read and Learned in January.

Can you believe it will be February tomorrow! I thought I’d take a moment to share what we’ve been doing in homeschool this month. For those who aren’t familiar, my sixth grader and I started our first year of homeschooling this year – we started because of the pandemic, but we’re enjoying it so much we plan to continue at least throughout the rest of middle school. Anyway, here’s what we’ve been reading, learning, and loving this month.

Homeschool Reads We Finished

Story of the World Vol. 3 by Susan Wise Bauer | We started reading this at the beginning of the school year and finished a couple weeks ago. It felt like a monumental milestone in our first year of homeschooling. Despite a few possible historical inaccuracies, I have found this to be the most engaging history text I’ve ever read and I really feel like it’s turned history as a subject around for my 6th grader.

Betsy and the Emperor by Staton Rabin | We both loved this story of Betsy and her friendship with Napoleon, the exiled former emperor of France. My sixth grader had a LOT to say about the book. Here’s her review:

“This book was very good. There were some good plot twists, a good plot, it was fun to read, it had an enjoyable adventurous detail in it. It’s a book I got hooked onto, it had good descriptive words, it was great. I enjoyed it a whole lot. The only thing is the ending was kind of sad. They tried to heal it with the prologue, since there wasn’t much they could do when there was history to line up with the story line. I just think it’s kind of sad how it happened.

I read this for homeschool, and when I heard about ‘Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte’ dying on Saint Helena during history, it didn’t hurt as much, but when you connect with the characters, and then one of the biggest characters in the story, he/she dies, it betrays you in a way. It REALLY hurts. I kind of wish that he hadn’t died, even though I know that’s betraying the historical ending they put in, and they had to include it. I did enjoy it, I just didn’t LOVE that historical detail. I had grown kinda attached to Boney. He was a fun character, one I’d gotten attached to, a fun character is hard to lose. He was really nice, had a good humor, and then history knocked on the door and pretty much killed Boney…”

Only the Name Remains by Alex W. Bealer | I’ll be honest, this book was a flop for both of us. As important as the topic is, for such a small book it really felt like a chore to get through it. My daughter wrote, “The book was rather sad. I also have to say, though I WAS reading it, I don’t exactly love non-fiction books. Especially not when they’re sadI hadn’t known before now that Tennessee was a Cherokee name. It surprised me right at the end ...”

Books We’re Still Reading

INDEPENDENT READER Banner in the Sky by James Ramsey Ullman | E is about halfway done with this one. I personally loved it. I felt like it really transported me to the Alps and the world of mountain climbing which prior to reading this story I had less than zero interest in.

READ ALOUD Nory Ryan’s Song by Patricia Reilly Giff | We’ve been reading this story set during the Irish Potato Famine and it’s really sweeping us away. It’s heartbreaking but so engaging. We’re really rooting for Nory and her family and wondering what will happen next.

EXTRA CREDIT Soft Rain by Cornelia Cornelissen | Determined to make up for Only the Name, I picked up a copy of this book at the recommendation of a fellow homeschooling mom and it is much better. Like most of our homeschool readers, this is a historical fiction story that still manages to teach about the Trail of Tears and do it justice but keeps our attention. We’re about halfway through and things are just starting to get intense. It’s a short read but we’re reading in between regular lessons, so it’s slow going.


Other Fun Stuff We’ve Learned About

  • E found a new favorite workout channel on YouTube. She’s been watching Up to the BEat Fit most days for health class this week. Other things I’ve counted as gym class: shoveling snow, mopping while dancing (genius, I know), and playing outside in the snow for an hour. I’m a really fun mom.
  • To demonstrate how far a character fell off a mountain in Banner in the Sky, we measured out the length with yarn and saw how far the yarn could extend through the house. We also did a worksheet last week to calculate exactly how big the new Chinese army was during the Taiping rebellion.
  • We demonstrated water pressure by poking holes into a soda can and pouring water through it to see which hole would pour further. We also baked a cake and used a stencil from the Story of the World activity book to create the Taiping coin emblem on it.

Add in lots of journaling, science and math, workbooks, and music lessons on the flute and guitar and you’ve pretty much got a good idea of what the last month has looked like here in the land of homeschool. What have you been up to this month?

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